The LG G6 could not have come at a better time. Launching its spec-packed, metal-and-glass G6 at the world’s largest mobile show (Mobile World Congress) gives LG a rare opportunity to prove itself after that lukewarm reception of last year’s modular-like G5, without the fear of being overshadowed by its biggest competitor, Samsung. (Samsung had to push back the launch of its Galaxy S8 flagship while dealing with fallout from its exploding Galaxy Note 7 fiasco.)
And that’s great. When it comes to the G6, we like what we’ve seen so far. Gone is that funky modular body (but also the removable battery). In its place are a slim design that’s 80 percent screen and a water-resistant build. It’s a safer play for LG, which will have to battle the Galaxy S8, Google Pixel phones and OnePlus 3T and others. (Check out the LG G6 spec comparison here.)
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For the first time in a while, the phone maker stands a chance. If the G6 shares many of the Galaxy S8’s most important features and still costs less (as LG flagships usually do — costing about north of $600, £500 and AU$1,000), it could stabilize after last year’s G5 loss. There are a lot of reasons you should be excited about the G6 (and two reasons why perhaps you won’t be). But let’s start with what we liked…
1. It’s a real looker
The G6 is LG’s nicest-looking flagship yet, which I don’t say often, especially given last year’s G5. But the polished G6 has a streamlined aesthetic and a smooth unibody design (think the LG V20 with fewer seams or the G5 with fewer bumps). It comes in silver, black and white, though the white version will only be available in certain countries, not including the US.
It’s virtually bezel-less. The 5.7-inch screen takes up roughly 80 percent of the phone, leaving thin margins all around. I like that the screen curves smoothly into the edges; it’s more comfortable for swiping and feels slightly luxurious.
At 565 pixels per inch, the screen is super-sharp, and it takes on an 18:9 aspect ratio (aka: 2:1). This is unique considering most phones are 16:9. While it won’t change your life dramatically, that ratio allows some movies to make full use of that display. (For example, I saw a few minutes of “Daredevil” on Netflix on the G6, and the movie filled the screen, without generating letterboxes, those black bars that appear on the sides).
2. You can dunk it underwater
Despite telling Trusted Reviews in 2014 that waterproof phones are “not that useful,” LG has changed its tune. The G6 is the company’s first dust- and water-resistant flagship, and it comes at a time when many of its competitors have already made their marquee phones splash-friendly.
It’s rated IP68, which means you can dunk it in up to a meter of water (about 3 feet) for up to 30 minutes. For the everyday user though, it just means the G6 won’t crap out after you accidentally drop it in the pool or spill coffee on it. (Get a deeper dive on IP ratings and what they mean for waterproof gadgets.)
The G6 can be submerged underwater for up to 30 minutes.
3. The cameras have new tricks
Like the V20 and the G5 before it, the G6 has two cameras on the back. But they aren’t to take artsy “bokeh” portraits like you do with the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. On the G6, you can switch between the standard 13-megapixel lens and the 120-degree wide-angle lens to capture more content in each frame.
And if you’re really all about that wide-angle life, the 5-megapixel front-facing shooter has a wide-angle option as well. We’ll have to spend more time taking selfies to see if image quality is better than last year’s 8-megapixel front-facing shooter, but it worked decently enough when we tried it out.
One of my favorite things about the camera is a new interface that shows you five of your most recent photos, like a gallery stream. LG added a separate camera app too called Square Camera. Aimed at hardcore Instagram users, it offers a number of different tools to take neat square photos. (For more on how Square Camera works, watch the video below and check out our explainer.)
Obsessed with Instagram? LG G6 has an app for you
CNET’s Dan Graziano gives you a first look at the phone’s new Square Camera app.
by Dan Graziano
4. Google Assistant comes baked in
Aside from the Google Pixel phones, the G6 is the only other handset so far to feature Google’s signature AI, Assistant, natively. Assistant uses Google’s vast search database and voice recognition. You can chat with it and look up things like random facts, the news and nearby places. If you have smart-home devices, you can use Assistant on your phone to control the lights in your home or set the thermostat. (Learn more about Assistant here.)
Aside from the Google Pixels, the G6 is the only other phone for now to have Assistant built in.
So what’s not to like?
Spec nerds may notice that the G6 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, which is the same CPU in last year’s OnePlus 3T and Google Pixels. Compared to the 821 processor, the 835 is measurably smaller, faster and quicker at recharging mobile batteries.
Unless you want to be on the absolute edge of technology, the idea of having “last year’s” processor shouldn’t be a huge deal, and the advantages of the 835 processor may not be that dramatic. On paper and in benchmark tests it’ll gain the edge, but in the real world, the usual differences between one superfast processor and another are hardly discernible. We won’t know until we test it, of course, but from our time playing videos, sending emails and navigating around, the G6 felt fast.
Though not removable, the G6’s battery can wirelessly charge (in the US).
Second, the G6 does not have a removable battery. Waterproofing and removable batteries don’t tend to go together these days, so omitting one of LG’s trademark features was kind of a given. Still, to longtime LG fans, this might come as a disappointment. LG has been one of the few holdouts to feature swappable batteries in its flagship phones, so buyers can switch a drained one for a charged one or replace an old battery with a fresh one.
Not having that advantage is a bummer. But it’s not a deal-breaker for everyone either. LG also hopes that the G6’s increased battery capacity and new wireless charging feature — just for the US — can offset the benefits of a swappable battery. The phone can also wirelessly charge when wet.
With competitive features, that large screen and its palmable shape, the LG G6 gives buyers plenty to look forward to. The G6 may not be as experimental or quirky as its predecessor, but I think that’s a good thing. Playing it safe may work out better after all.
LG G6 specs